Lance asked in Heating Up! "One of the interesting things was that even when a President has campaigned on a platform of smaller government. They still have enlarged the system by giving either their enemies or friends a stake in the system."
That is a good question, and the answer, I think, goes beyond the particulars of politics. Now of course, Gov’t by nature of the people who enter it, political actions amongst political people doing and returning favors, it inevitably grows… and it almost certainly always will, but there was for a time something that kept it within reasonable bounds… what? How and when did Gov't not just grow, but grow beyond those reasonable bounds, and when you find that "They still have enlarged the system by giving either their enemies or friends a stake in the system.", it usually means that a principle has been neglected.
The ink was hardly dry on the constitution, when congress began trying to glory in its own generosity, but there still were restraints. James Madison said, in 1794, when Congress appropriated $15,000 for relief to French refugees fleeing from insurrection in San Domingo (now Haiti) to Baltimore and Philadelphia, James Madison said disapprovingly, "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents."
Why did he say that? When they fell back on the 'General Welfare' clause of the Constitution, thinking 'well, this is for the general welfare... we'll sure feel swell doing it, why not?'. Madison was able to draw upon his understanding of the principles involved (of course fathering the Constitution helped…), and say "With respect to the two words 'general welfare,' I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators." He also said at a later time in a related matter, "If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one subject to particular exceptions."
Thomas Jefferson explained, "Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated." That was a critical principle to be observed.
Why did congress try to violate that? A key factor that spurred them on, was the growing Progressivist philosophy, which was becoming influential across both political parties, the feeling, the desire to do, to manage, and more to allow those who obviously know better (have you read Rousseau’s piece on ‘Legislators’?), to do what they knew would make things better, and if you could give it a patina of 'scientific' knowledge, all the better.
But for the longest time, the Principle of ‘principle’ was well enough respected, that if you pointed out that a proposal violated it, that was that, as did Madison and Jefferson and many others, but over time, and under the growing influence of Hume, Rousseau, Godwin, Kant, etc, with the doubt that we really could know something or even anything, our belief in our ability to grasp reality began to fade, and the primacy of principle along with it. That became key to the notions of Progressivim and its emphasis on pragmatism, taking isolated actions 'that work', rather than being 'straight jacketed' by Principle.
Franklin Pierce said, after vetoing an appropriation to assist the mentally ill, "I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for public charity," adding, "To approve such spending would be contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Constitution and subversive to the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded." Buchanan gave similar reasons for to Pierce's, when he vetoed Republican Senator Morrill's proposal for Federally controlled 'Land Grant' colleges, as with Madison and others he saw the Fed Gov't had no business being involved in such a thing, but he was the last to successfully fend off the progressives.
With the Civil War, Morril tried again, this time spinning it as a War measure 'Educate them reb's and they won't be dumb enough to rebel again'. Lincoln bought it, and the chink in that Constitutional armor that had so long frustrated the Progressives, had been made. Education had always been the primary target of the Progressives (which I've detailed before), and what they used to fuel the spread of their ideas and programs, and the field which I think shows the greatest evidence of their rot.
A few more presidents had the gumption to oppose measures on Constitutional principle; Grover Cleveland vetoed hundreds of spending bills, similarly saying, "I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution.", but now they were doing so on their own personal power, the backing of reverence for the U.S. Constitution on Principle, was fading fast – the leading Progressives were already attacking it as an outmoded document that shouldn’t hinder their doing somethingIt was another Progressive Republican President, Teddy Roosevelt who put us past the tipping point towards an obese Fed Gov’t, floating trial balloons for everything Wilson and FDR would succeed in doing, he made it 'respectable' to talk of such unconstitutional measures as Fed Gov't direct taxation, involvement in businesses, etc.
Those who think we can pass quick fixes to correct things, are, I think dreaming. Though I think it would be great to repeal the Income Tax, Social Security, and so on... unless people again understand the principles of the Constitution, of limited enumerated powers, and again grasp the importance of Principles themselves, and that we are capable of grasping and understanding Reality - any such changes would soon be nullified by some other similar proposal. One of the principles still understood in the 18th & 19th centuries, almost wordlessly, was that Gov't, when stepping in to 'help' in private life, does so by relieving people of the necessity and responsibility, to be worthy people. No longer do you have to be concerned about that person that needs help, Gov't will handle it. People want Gov't to handle a problem, so that they can avoid it. Decent people didn't cotton to such thoughts. Such thoughts once cottoned to, are not easily legislated over, they have to be uprooted the same way they were first planted - through education.
Ideas matter, and they guide how we act in the world, and before we ever have a chance of grasping the revolutionary nature of Classical Liberalism, that most deeply entrenched holding of 'the enemy' will have to be retaken, Education, and Philosophy - no lasting battles will be won without them.